Reaching the mark helps attract luxury retailers but raises challenges for managing growth.
Without a party, Duval County likely surpassed 1 million in population between 2020 and 2021.
Consider it another quiet moment during the coronavirus pandemic.
It was 25 years earlier, in January 1996, when the five-county metro area reached a million people and marked it with a community celebration featuring “I Dream of Jeannie” star Barbara Eden.
Carrie Smith, senior vice president of the Franklin Street commercial real estate firm, said reaching 1 million “is another testament to how rapidly growing Duval and the surrounding counties have been for the last few years.”
“We see it and feel it here locally, and now this proves that what we’re seeing is real,” she said.
Smith said Jacksonville historically has been viewed as a second-tier Florida city, “with the ‘big guys’ getting much of the attention for our state – Orlando, Miami and Tampa.”
Smith said the area has been attracting big-name retailers for years, including Ikea.
“We as a city have already been able to attract the type of goods and services that the overall population seeks.”
She said more population density in some submarkets, such as Downtown, can “make a huge impact in attracting retailers and restaurants.”
Smith has noticed the wealth migration into the state and parts of Jacksonville “that brings with them a whole other level of tastes and expectations.”
“While our population increasing is a piece of the puzzle when it comes to different types of new-to-market retailers and restaurants looking at our city, the expanding diversity of our population will be the bigger story to watch,” Smith said.
Economy and jobs
Smith at Franklin Street doesn’t consider the million mark as “moving the needle in terms of recruitment.”
“What does impact our ability to attract businesses and recruit top talent is our way of life and Jacksonville has a ton to offer,” she said.
“Between outdoor activities and nightlife entertainment, along with top-notch services and restaurants, we offer a whole lot as a place to folks to build a career and life here,” Smith said.
She said a burgeoning Downtown is central to bringing in top talent.
“Our city has made incredible strides these last few years with this. We have to continue investing in our core and other parts of the city that will plant long-term seeds for the future,” she said.
Reaching a million doesn’t necessarily mean employers assume an adequate workforce, she said.
“The investment we make into this city is what impacts this,” Smith said.